Intellectual infrastructure

INTELLECTUAL INFRASTRUCTURE…. It wasn’t too terribly long ago that one of the most common concerns among progressives was the complete and total lack of an intellectual infrastructure.

The left has come a long way.

My old colleague Avi Zenilman points out to me a run-of-the mill example of just how successful the project (led by, among others, John Podesta) to build a Democratic intellectual infrastructure has been.

Bill Nichols and I wrote a story the other day on five of the most pressing foreign policy choices Obama faces, and for it, I called around on a tight deadline to a half dozen think tanks, right, left and center, and a few academics at universities. We wound up quoting experts from Princeton and three of the think tanks: The Center for American Progress, the New America Foundation, and the Center for a New American Security.

As Avi points out, those think tanks have one thing in common: None of them existed 11 years ago. New America was founded in 1998, American progress in 2003, and CNAS last year.

Good point. It happened quietly and deliberately, but the left has created some impressive institutions, few, if any, of which existed when the conservative movement was ascendant.

In fact, none other than Tom DeLay recently acknowledged how impressed he is with “liberal infrastructure,” which he believes now “dwarfs conservatism’s in size, scope, and sophistication,” and will be “setting and helping to impose the national agenda for the coming years.”

I never thought I’d hear so many conservatives running around saying, “Why can’t we have the kind of infrastructure the left has?”

It’s about time.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.